Welcome to another Comments of the Week!

This week in terms of idol, music, film and fashion news, we talked about BoA‘s “Shadow”, more nugu-spotting, hidden gems in Beasts‘s discography, ballads in K-popKara‘s “Pandora”, miss A, GD‘s “One of a Kind”, ZE:A‘s “Phoenix”, VIXX‘s “Rock Ur Body”, Eluphant, Seo In-young, Yoon Seung-ah for SureInfinite for W Korea, Jung Yumi for Nylon, and Arang and the Magistrate.

As for socio-cultural topics, we looked at Doojoon‘s reaction to an overweight fan, a counterpoint looking at circumstance, Korean drinking customs, the S.M.Art exhibition, positive social happenings in Korea during the month of August, idols striving for perfection, more thoughts on Hwayoung, Paris Hilton and K-pop, and dating and marriage customs in Korea.

Our writers had a lot to say this week, as did our readers. Here are five of my favorite quotes from “Seoulbeats netizens” this week:

Black_Plague on The Good Sans the Bad and the Ugly: August Edition:

Abolishing the mandatory service is pretty big indeed, considering that serving in the armed forces is basically a national duty for all fit men in South Korea and has been so for decades.

From what I know, there was a lot of talk that people wanted the service at least reduced or change it into an all-volunteer army – if the ROK armed forces turns into the latter, then it would indeed need to be professionalized much like the US and various nations in Europe. Although I’d argue that changing the military into an all-volunteer one doesn’t necessarily make it better in quality – the Israelis still rely on conscription and have been known to be tooth-and-nail fighters while the South Koreans themselves were feared heavily by the VC and NVA back in the Vietnam War despite being a conscript-based force.

I can imagine a sizeable number of politicians would be pretty opposed to it though, considering the North’s massive army (although then again, the DPRK’s armed forces suffers from terribly obselete and poorly maintained equipment, food, fuel and other logistics shortages, outdated doctrine and even their nuclear missile technology is laughable).

But if changing it into a volunteer military is gonna happen, I’m all happy for it. They have the advanced technology already to counter the North’s numbers and have the advantage in economy and manpower availability, as well as allies.

I do hope Mr. Kim Doo-gwan knows what he’s talking, otherwise it’s just a cheap shot to grab votes.

gg (¬‿¬) on GD, You’re Definitely “One of a Kind”:

I don’t completely agree with your interpretation of the dinner table scene. I think you almost had it though. This is what I took from it…We’re presented with two GD’s. One is wild and unhinged and the other is stiff and proper. But NEITHER are G-Dragon or Kwon Jiyong. The first GD is, like you said, how some people have come to perceive him. Notice how he’s almost like a crazed version of his Heartbreaker persona. He’s got makeup art on his right eye (a heart in Heartbraker, a sinister black line here, like that seen on a clown/joker) and there’s the imagery of a heart provided by the raw, bloody heart-shaped piece of meat on the plate, which he stabs forcefully/aggressively. It’s a quick but visually and symbolically effective caricature sequence of Heartbreaker-era GD. Then almost right away we realize that we’re actually seeing him through a pair of lens, and when the lens are removed, we are presented with a blindingly white (white = pure), clean and ordered table/dinner setting, and a reserved, smiling, mannered, smartly dressed GD. This is the image that conservative Korean society and/or the confining kpop music industry WANT him to have, to present/market himself as. Someone who does what he’s told and follows all the rules (has ‘table manners’). Here, he looks up with a big exaggeratedly sweet smile and says with very mock-innocent/sweet voice/expression “please accept me, please love me.” What he in fact means is “That’s what you want me to say, right? You want me to be submissive and weak, and to ask for your approval. I don’t think so.” Because he always has and will always do things (music, art) his own way, and it’s time people understood that and stop expecting him to change.

You also asked about the tiger. Like the bear (and fox), there is also meaning behind the tiger. In Korea, the tiger is seen as a symbol of great power. Ultimate power, if I’m not mistaken. But notice that GD has the tiger on a leash. More than that, he himself is dressed from head-to-toe in tiger-print clothing/accessories: tiger-print/striped Timbs (where do I buy me some of those), pants, shirt and (why not) a giant tiger-head backpack. So he’s doing two thing. He CONTROLS (the leash) the tiger (powerful creature) and he himself is LIKE a tiger (his clothes/appearance), and a bigger one at that. So, whichever way you look at it, he’s saying “I have more power than you, than even the supposedly most powerful.”

The song even has its very tongue-in-cheek moments. The lyrics are boastful and egotistic at face-value, but even as he baits, he’s does it playfully and in an ironic way. For example, he gets slapped when he says “My rap is what makes the ladies come to the bedroom — Yeah, I’m busy” and knocked out in a boxing ring when he says “Get back, I’m not kidding, Young and rich — that describes me.” It’s like he’s saying, “I know this is what you think about me, and you put me down for it, but don’t you think you’re being kinda ridiculous? I can’t win with you, can I? Well since you’re just gonna be that way, I’ll just carry on.”

I think I also understand why the song was released only through the mv (as a promotional song/mv for the actual album) and not as a digital single/title track. 1) Since it’s a rap/hip hop track, it probably wouldn’t do well in the charts and/or have staying power (collectively, the South Korean public doesn’t really listen to rap/hiphop). 2) The MV gives the song context. Heard without the MV, it’s just a boastful, ‘I’m so great’ rap song to people, especially to those who think that’s all rap music is and to those who already think GD is a cold and arrogant celebrity, full of himself. So by giving people no choice but to watch the MV in order hear the song, they are able to fully grasp the “I’m not being for srs” playfulness and irony, as well as the deeper message/narrative and baiting.

And it’s for sure what you said: G-Dragon is definitely one of a kind. He’s daring, challenging in a way no one else in kpop would even try. I feel that G-Dragon has reached a defining point in his music career. He is so much more than kpop now. He’s an icon.

Michaela Wylie on Doojoon’s Reaction to an Overweight Fan and the Blame Game:

What I find more bothersome than the fact that Doojoon reacted this way because of its implications on Korean society (although I agree that the materialism in South Korea is disturbing) is the fact that he reacted this way to a fan. A foreign fan, who probably flew halfway across the globe and spent a shitload of money to see her beloved, idolized oppas. To have someone she probably loves and admires and puts on a pedestal treat her like that is just absolutely unacceptable in my book.

These idols are role models to a lot of their fans. You may think that’s ridiculous and that they really shouldn’t be, especially considering the different societal values between different cultures, but regardless of what you think, that’s the truth. Idols are put under a lot of pressure for things they shouldn’t be, but I also feel like they don’t get enough flack for some things they deserve to. Unless these fans are sasaengs, I really don’t see any excuse for treating them so rudely.

Idols became successful for a few different reasons (good music, good styling, a brand/company name, etc….), but the cornerstone of their success is fan support. These fans organize fan chants, send donations in their name, buy the music and merchandise, translate their videos to different languages to spread their popularity internationally, and basically dedicate the majority of their time to the group(s) they love. Idols may sacrifice a lot for their fans, but fans also sacrifice a lot for their idols (and fans aren’t paid for it). I know some people look down on fans for a lot of the ridiculous things they say, and the fact that some fans seem unable to see fault with their idols. But all the things fans do to support their idols are really incredible, and I really sympathize for that girl being degraded by someone she doubtlessly  views in a very favorable light. She had to realize that Doojoon really wasn’t all that he advertised.

And you know what, I do blame Doojoon for that. Not having respect for the fans that do so much for you is ungrateful and have a serious problem with that. No one should be picky about what their fans look like, and it’s really arrogant if you are. These people love and admire you, so do your best to not disappoint them. Doojoon’s a human, but he’s also an idol. He makes mistakes, but I’m still going to blame him for those mistakes. What that fan had to endure was really cruel, and I can’t imagine ever experiencing that.

mojo jojo on Idols Striving for Perfection: It’s a Hard-Knock Life:

I suppose ‘perfection’ comes with the title of an idol. I don’t see it fading anytime soon. These people have to keep up a facade that their company markets them by ‘on’ and ‘off’ screen.

I wouldn’t call breaking the law a mistake because it doesn’t fit the category. We’re all aware of the law and know that breaking it is a crime. GD, Daesung and Nichkhun are public figures who are very well respected and loved by many so obviously people will be disappointed by them breaking the law. Kpop fan’s also tend to believe that they know their oppa, unni, noona, hyung very well so when news like this breaks out they are genuinely shocked. It makes sense to be angry because well…  fans are also human… (I think xD)

Then there are the anti fans who are just waiting for these people to mess up so they can begin the backlash. I don’t think fans can pull a 360 degree turn that quickly (well I can’t). It’s the anti fans who stir up trouble and convince others that the idol is wrong. Sometimes news on the internet can be mistaken as true as well (T-ara Scandal) and things get messy in the confusion. In the end being ‘perfect’ or close to ‘perfect’ is an idols job. Krystal still hasn’t learnt that from the first few times she was put under fire for being ‘rude.’ She just keeps doing it and so the more she acts ‘rude’ the more flack she will receive because it’s not a first time offense. Taeyeon will not be looking ‘bored’ again, I hope. She was working so if she does her work wrong by not paying attention she will obviously be scolded. Block B will be careful of what they say using their mouths. Their carelessness got them into a lot of trouble.

Lastly I would like to add that these idols are not your close friends that you feel they shouldn’t receive negative comments from everyone. They are professionals. They are paid workers. They are public figures. So if they mess up they will get backlash. They know this better than anyone else. Yes, its a hard knock life but they did sign up for it.

Marisu on Why It Makes Me Sorry That Hwayoung Is Sorry:

While I do agree that it looks like we probably won’t be seeing Hwayoung in the Kpop industry, I doubt it’s because of her reputation. In the end, business is business, and Hwayoung despite the minorities calling her “Hwasshole” has the majority of sympathizers, and there are probably agencies who’ld probably pick her up. I think she’ll mostly not appear because frankly after all this, I’m not surprised she’ll throw in the towel and give the finger to the whole business.

In all, I think throughout this whole thing, in terms of PR, Hwayoung is the one coming out with her reputation intact. Ironically, it’s not really because of how she conducted herself, but how KKS/CCM handled the whole thing. It’s a timeline of misfires and backpedalling and disastrous crisis management.

While I don’t like how the public reacted Spanish-Inquisition style to the whole bullying issue, in a way KKS brought it upon himself and sadly upon the T-ara girls. Starting with the toxic work environment which led to the girls foolishly tweeting their spat. Most of all though, they (the agency) hesitated too long for the situation to escalate, giving time for antis to start a smear campaign, and when finally they reacted, they claimed the tweets were hacked. Then when the public rightly pointed out that it must be one seriously talented if bored hacker to hack into 5 tweets simultaneously, they backpedaled and then fired Hwayoung, the perceived victim of the whole situation. Which then kick-started the chain of T-ara hate.

Throughout this whole thing, it’s easy to see why the general public supports Hwayoung, how she conducted herself, she wasn’t at all antagonistic, except for one tweet, “facts without truth.” She never said anything negative about T-ara, but on the other end KKS started mudslinging and seemed to threaten Hwayoung (that comment about a former member who committed suicide). In his misguided campaign to exonerate T-ara by blaming Hwayoung, he succeeded in just making himself look like a douchebag and dragging T-ara into the mud with him.

At the risk of sounding like a douche myself, the whole T-ara debacle would make a good case study on how not to handle a PR disaster for those majoring in PR or communications.

While I feel sorry for Hwayoung for loosing her dreams, I think she came out of this a bit luckier than the other girls. T-ara on the other hand, while some may disagree with me, and feel that they can shake off this whole scandal, I’m not sure. Sometimes the public has an elephant memory, and it doesn’t help that CCM now has a reputation for producing problematic groups, but also they’re going ahead with a comeback when the public is not yet ready to welcome them with open arms.

That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave additional comments below.

(Images via Amuse Korea, High Cut, L’Express, Cube Entertainment, Vogue Girl, CCM Entertainment)